Systemic autoimmune activation linked to coronary atherosclerosis

LONDON (Reuters Health) – Antinuclear antibodies (ANA) are much more common among subjects with severe coronary atherosclerosis than among those who do not, according to a recent report by British investigators.

Previous studies have provided evidence of a link between local autoimmune reactions and atherosclerosis, but the current findings suggest that systemic autoimmunity may also play a role in plaque development.

Dr. D. J. Grainger, from Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, and Dr. H. W. L. Bethell, from Northwick Park Hospital in Middlesex, determined the presence of serum ANA in 40 subjects with severe three-vessel disease (TVD) and in 30 subjects with angiographically normal coronary arteries. The researchers' findings are reported in the February issue of the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Twenty-eight subjects (70%) in the TVD group tested positive for ANA compared with only five subjects (17%) in the normal vessel group (p < 0.001), the authors note. Most of the ANA-positive subjects in both groups had antibodies directed primarily against nucleolar antigens. The researchers were unable to identify the targeted antigen, but several common antigens were ruled out.

The results suggest that "the ANA titre may be useful as an additional non-invasive diagnostic tool for identifying subjects at risk of coronary artery disease in the whole population," the authors state. However, larger studies are needed to confirm the current findings.

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